My friend Barry Arnold pastors Cornerstone Church here in Gresham, Oregon. Last year he sent an email to his church regarding prayer. It’s worth quoting:
I think our prayers are unbalanced—in the direction of just physical needs. We can and should pray for people with infirmities—but it might be wise to change the emphasis of our prayers from physical healing alone to God accomplishing His purposes in and through afflictions.
Here’s a partial list of things the New Testament tells us to pray for:
Pray for people who give you a hard time (Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 6:28)
Pray for children (Matthew 19:13)
Pray for strength to endure difficult times (Luke 21:36)
Pray you will not fall into temptation (Luke 22:40)
Pray for all Christians (1 Thessalonians 5:25; Hebrews 13:18)
Pray that God's Kingdom will come and His will be done (Matthew 6:10)
Pray God will provide your daily needs (Matthew 6:11)
Pray for God's forgiveness as we forgive others (Matthew 6:12)
Pray we will not be led into temptation, but delivered from evil (Matthew 6:13)
Pray for boldness in proclaiming the gospel and for God to do miracles in people's lives (Acts 4:29-31)
Pray all the time, be alert, pray for fellow believers (Ephesians 6:18)
Pray for fearless teaching of the Word (Ephesians 6:20)
Pray to be filled with the knowledge of His will (Colossians 1:9)
Pray for open doors for the gospel (Colossians 4:3)
Pray that the Word of God may be glorified (2 Thessalonians 3:1)
Pray for deliverance from evil men (2 Thessalonians 3:2)
Pray for everyone, government leaders, peace, quiet, godliness, holiness (1 Timothy 2:1,2)
Pray for sinners to find life in Christ (1 John 5:16)
Ask God for wisdom (James 1:5)
It’s hard to break habits, and we’re very much in the habit of just asking God to cure people. Here’s a suggestion: When you pray for a physical need, also include at least one of the “spiritual needs” listed above.
In doing so we may begin to see physical infirmities the way God does, realizing that sometimes He heals, and many other times, for wise and holy reasons, He doesn’t.